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Unformatted text preview: ng with ever more ferocious intensity. Disaster generation can therefore be left to the market's invisible hand. This is one area in which it actually delivers. The disaster-capitalism complex does not deliberately scheme to create the cataclysms on which it feeds (though Iraq may be a notable exception), but there is plenty of evidence that its component industries work very hard indeed to make sure that current disastrous trends continue unchallenged. Large oil companies have bankrolled the climate-change-denial movement for years; ExxonMobil alone has spent an estimated $19 million on the crusade over the past decade. Although the phenomenon is well known, the interplay between disaster contractors and elite opinion makers is far less understood. Several influential Washington think tanks-including the National Institute for Public Policy and the Center for Security Policy-are heavily funded by weapons and homeland-security contractors, which profit directly from these institutes' ceaseless portrayal of the world as a dark and menacing place, its troubles responsive only to force. The homeland-security sector is also becoming increasingly integrated with media corporations, a development that has Orwellian implications. In 2004 the digital-communications giant LexisNexis paid $775 million for Seisint, a data-mining company that works closely on surveillance with federal and state agencies. That same year, General Electric, which owns NBC, purchased InVision, the major producer of controversial hightech bomb-detection devices used in airports and other public spaces. In Vision received a staggering $15 billion in homeland-security contracts between 2001 and 2006, more of such contracts than any other company. The creeping expansion of the disaster-capitalism complex into the media may prove to be a new kind of corporate synergy, one building on the vertical integration that became so popular in the Nineties. It certainly makes sound business sense. The more panicked our societies become, convinced that there are terrorists lurking in every mosque, the higher the news ratings soar, the more biometric lOs and liquid-explosive-detection devices the complex sells, and the more high-tech fences it builds. If the dream of the open, borderless "small planet" was the ticket to profits during the Clinton years, the nightmare of the menacing, fortressed Western continents, under siege from jihadists and illegal immigrants, plays the same role in the new millennium. There is only one cloud that looms over the thriving disaster economyfrom weapons to oil to engineering to surveillance to patented drugs. It is the threatening if unlikely scenario that this latest boom could somehow be interrupted by an outbreak of climatic stability and geopolitical peace. - 58 HARPER'S MAGAZINE / OCTOBER 2007...
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